A smart, courageous, bold dog, the Belgian Laekenois is the rarest of the four Belgian sheepdog breeds. They are extremely devoted to and possessive of their family members but are standoffish and guarded around strangers. These are not especially friendly, approachable, outgoing dogs. They can be dominant and aggressive. They should not be shy or vicious and should never attack without provocation.
Bred to herd, guard and protect, the Laekenois makes a wonderful watchdog. However, they need lots of attention and socialization to make them reliable companions. They do not do well when isolated for long periods of time in a kennel, crate or yard. Children and small animals should be closely supervised around the Belgian Laekenois, because they tend to be unpredictable when they are uncomfortable or frightened and they can be aggressive towards other animals. Laekenois that are raised around children and other pets from a very young age can become well-adjusted members of the family. However, prospective dog owners who have young children or small pets may want to consider another breed.
The Laekenois is a high-energy working breed that needs lots of exercise. Long daily walks are a great way to burn off some of its energy, but a few short excursions around the block will not be enough to keep them happy and fit. Laekenois especially enjoy exploring off-leash, but they must be in a safe, confined area during these romps. They can be avid competitors in outdoor dog sports, such as herding, tracking, agility and utility. They love to play fetch and catch Frisbees. This is a good breed for active, outdoorsy people who have plenty of time to devote to their dog. Unfortunately, a Laekenois that doesn’t get enough exercise can become destructive, depressed, anxious, noisy or aggressive.
A Belgian Laekenois’ training must begin early. This breed is not particularly sociable and can become dangerously dominant if its owner doesn’t train it consistently, kindly, firmly and repeatedly starting at a very young age. These are not dogs to just “keep around” until they are 6 or 8 months old, and then take to an occasional obedience class. They must be started earlier. Loud scolding, physical punishment and other harsh “training techniques” may increase the Laekinois’ aggressive tendencies. Praise, rewards and other positive reinforcement methods work best with this breed, as with most others. Early socialization is as important as early training. Laekenois become much more reliable when they are gradually introduced to lots of different people, in a variety of non-stressful environments, starting in puppyhood, when they are most easily controlled and safer for strangers to be around. Introducing one person at time to the dog in its home may be the best way to start and build a foundation for it to eventually meet groups of people and other dogs safely in public places, such as parks and coffee shops.
Bred for centuries to be herders and guardians, the Laekenois naturally displays characteristic herding and guarding behaviors, both with people and with other animals. These include circling, pushing, chasing, bullying and other forms of intimidation. Left unchecked, such behaviors can be dangerous for the dog and for those around it. The Laekinois has a pack mentality and wants to be at the top of the authority pedestal. It will dominate pets and people, including its owners, to become recognized as leader of the pack. They can be very territorial. To make trustworthy companions, these dogs need consistent control from confident owners.